“Cold” – Jamie Murdock

My hands are filthy, to say the least. They are a smattered in thick, wet mud, grainy flecks of dirt and a crust of crushed dried leaves. Across my palms, completely soaked into the soft skin of my hands, was a flush of red. Sitting in my nonmoving vehicle with my legs swung outward from behind the steering wheel and out the open door, I look to the fading scope ahead of me. A ring of tall, dead trees peeled back from the clearing, stretching their tired, limbs to form a spiked circle all around me. The leaves on their out-stretched arms are dry and dull, carrying none of the vibrant colors of autumn. They move with every invisible wind to the half-barren canopy, scratching around like the tail of a rattlesnake.

The winds are blowing high, leaving me and my car predominantly protected by the brigade of withered trees. I shiver, my body numb with cold,, and light myself a cigarette. The red and dirt of my hands mingles with the filter. I don’t like this, and quickly stomp out my smoke and leave the shelter of my car to wash my hands. Directly before me, pitted like a cavernous crater in the center of the tree-brigade, is a body of water. The shores are dinged with dark sand and dead wet leaves. A green ring of algae and moss, bordered with a scatter of rocks is all that separates the still edge of the water with the land. I see no bugs humming around it, I hear no snakes. Looking around, almost cautiously, I stoop over and rinse my hands in the green-black liquid. The dirt and stains flee from my hands, rippling disturbance into the pool as I wash.

Reflecting off the water, in the fading light of day, I see myself. My hair is disheveled, and my face bares scratches. From the struggle, I would imagine. Casting my linked hands in the water, I raise a puddle to my face and splash the coolness on my burning cheeks. I had not felt like flush until that moment, the bitter bite of the water catching me off guard. I didn’t think I could get much colder. I splash my face again in this manner, but my hands are quaking this time. As the lake grows silent again, I continue to hover over it. In my eyes I see sparkling madness. Pulling back from the water, I wipe my hands unceremoniously across my jeans, and then dry my face against the haggard remains of my left sweater sleeve. I turn to look back at my car and swallow back the dryness in my throat. Behind it there is something more, a creeping tingle threatening to rise into a sob from my mouth.

You can’t just leave her in there…

For several minutes, I debate what to do. This would be a beautiful place to die. I could drive straight into the water and let it rise inside the car, engulfing me in that beautiful green-black abyss which so mercifully washed away sin from my hands. But the thought of its purity washing down my lungs makes me pause. For the first time in an three hours my mind came to settle. I didn’t like it, the silence left me with echoes of shrieks and gagging. Finally I muster the courage to go back to the car, and after staring dumbfounded at the pop button for the trunk, I find further courage and push it in. Circling around to the back, I stare at the contents within.

You’re lovely. The twisted corpse scrunched inside is covered in dark, dried blood. Rage and misery begin to swell through me, pushing the familiar tingling wail closer to the surface. My Maria, her beautiful ivory throat riddled with punctures, lay before me. Still in her lingerie, the soft blue silk soiled and stiff from the fluid of her wasted life. My insides crumple like used aluminum foil when I behold her face. Her features are twisted and eyelids askew, lipstick smeared over her nose. Like a child, I whimper her name with quivering lips.

“Maria–” My cracked, far-off voice broke the glass bubble of silence that consumed the whole clearing. Once the notes had begun to flow, I could not stop them. I continue to whimper her name until I lay weeping at the trunk. One of her bare, bloody feet hung limp from the car, and I clasp on. For some time I hug her heavy, pale calf close to my chest while I ponder the rest of my short life. Once the coarse sand beneath me had soaked through the knees of my pants and began to grit away the skin of my caps, I rose from my fetal huddle. Dragging her further out by her ankle, and then clutching her about the waist, I stroked her down from the car and over the sand. Her sticky, near black hair clumped and matted up in the dirt. By the time we reached the edge of the water her locks were bound into a sandy lump and her pearly skin was abrasive with filth. Together we eased into the murky abyss. Frigid, miserable water swims up my pant legs and tucks into my shirt, clawing me mercilessly.

I let go of her foot once we were waist deep in and let the pull of the water bring her sinking form into my arms. I had not thought of how to keep her body down in the deep. It didn’t particularly matter, I thought. She felt heavy enough to sink on her own, and in fact when I released her she began to. Soon her body would bloat and rise white-blue and engorged back to the surface, but I would not be around anymore to witness it. As her face disappeared, I felt a weight come off of me. Her infidelity, her imperfection, her death, slipped away like her corpse into the black-green of the pool. When the rest of her, to the tips of her white toes, sunk away completely, I lay back in the water myself.

It was slow, horrible, and heavenly. I floated far out into the lake, breathing in deep as i felt myself being pulled further from the hope of the shore. When, what seemed like hours later, I began to tire, My body also began to sink. Instinct forced me for just a minute to fight it, but by then I was too weak to struggle when the water pooled into my nose. Snorting it down deep, I open my mouth to gasp for water, but I meet instead with the black of the water. My feet kick out in instinct to gain purchase on sand, but there is none. I must be a half mile from shore now. Panic sinks me deeper and I thrash. The more I thrash, the further I sink. The strangling black water heaves up, and then sinks back as foul vomit into my throat.

My death seemed to take forever. Finally I felt a curtain of black slip over me– not just the water. Before, as I wormed, I could see a soft shimmer of the dim light of dusk. Now a thick veil settled over my vision, and my brain bursts with euphoric fog. Perhaps I urinated, and that began to warmth that spread over me, but I am not sure. Suddenly, I just began to feel warmth. It wrapped around me, thick like the water, and embraced me tightly. I was no longer cold.

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